Favorite transmission you’ve driven?

Colin
By Colin Wood
Jul 11, 2022 | manual transmission, transmission, Dual-Clutch Transmission, automatic transmission, CVT, Discussion, Gearbox

Photography Courtesy Porsche

In a day and age in which transmissions can range from quick-shifting dual-clutch gearboxes to units with a virtually infinite number of ratios, what is your favorite that you’ve driven?

Do you prefer the slick-shifting six-speed of a Honda S2000 or a fast-on-its-feet PDK in a Porsche 911? Or, perhaps, you enjoy something else entirely like the direct drive found in a Tesla model S Plaid or the CVT used in Formula 500 cars?

Whatever it is, let us know.

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Comments
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Sonic
Sonic UberDork
7/11/22 9:45 a.m.

The 6 speed in my NSX is pretty fantastic.  You can feel everything so clearly through the shifter, the ratios are all spot on, no weird noises, easy maintenance.   

Defined motorsports
Defined motorsports SuperDork
7/11/22 10:20 a.m.

In reply to Velement :

Thanks canoe. 

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/11/22 10:38 a.m.

I've owned a few manual Hondas and a Miata, which are all known for great shifters, but honestly, my favorite was the old-fashioned T5 in my 1989 Fox body Mustang with a Pro 5.0 shifter. So solid and direct, it felt like a rifle bolt.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
7/11/22 10:40 a.m.

1999 Miata. Bought with low miles (30k or so) and enjoyed the heck out of that slick shifting manual transmission every time I drove it.

Aaron_King
Aaron_King PowerDork
7/11/22 11:29 a.m.

My favorite manual was the one in the 67 Lotus Super Seven that belonged to a friend of my Dad, my 64 Spitfire comes in second.  As for automatics, the 7 speed auto in our 06 R class is by far the best one I have used.  Even at 108K miles it shifts so smooth.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
7/11/22 11:37 a.m.

The PDK in my Cayman was a marvel of modern engineering.  The 6 speed in my ND Miata is the best manual I've ever felt.  I took my buddy's 911 GT3 manual for a spin and I strongly prefer the Miata transmission to the Porsche manual.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
7/11/22 11:41 a.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

Cadillac LaSall 

It's  a 3 on the tree and it's positively sexual how smooth it is.  Finger tip shifting with gravity assist into 2nd gear. 
   The last ones were put into a few hearse's  back in 1953. 
 I really pity those who haven't used one

    I also like Duesenburg 3 on the floor.  The one I drove had 47,000 miles on it  and was 32 years old.  But it was snick snick snick into all three gears and even reverse just dropped in without grinding.   Long lever but smooth. Not at all not at all notchy.   

Jay_W
Jay_W SuperDork
7/11/22 1:16 p.m.

I have 2. The one that is in any Miata, and the PDK in the GT3 that I got to spend 10 minutes of quality time with. 

jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/11/22 1:23 p.m.

My first manual trans car - a 1968 Chev with a three on the tree and a very worn clutch was a bunch of fun.  But if I had to pick a really nice transmission that I've driven I'd have to say the S2000.  Very precise & tight, good feedback.

c0rbin9
c0rbin9 Reader
7/11/22 1:30 p.m.
  1. Integra GS-R/S2000 (GS-R: smoothest feel, zero notchiness but still direct feeling)

  2. 1991 BMW 318is (also very smooth, light action)

  3. Shelby GT350 (more direct feeling than the above, but higher effort)

  4. FD RX-7 (tied with Shelby; very tight and direct, some grittiness if pedal work not perfect, takes a while to warm up)

  5. 2006 Viper

  6. FRS

  7. Z32 300ZX/R32 GT-R (tight and direct, but feedback when going into gear not great)

  8. 2010 Shelby GT500

  9. (tier 2)

  10. Porsche 968 (heavy large stock shift knob balanced on top of spindly feeling linkage; hard to miss a shift, feels purpose built, would probably be good when shifting quickly on a track)

  11. 987 Boxster (very light, but linkage feels flexible. Feels like you will break the shifter)

  12. 1983 Porsche 911SC

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/11/22 1:36 p.m.

Any American auto with a ratchet shifter and reverse manual valve body.  Drive one and be forever annoyed with how slow manual transmissions are.

 

Has to be a hydraulic trans, too.  Electronic transmissions are painfully slow in comparison, even DSGs.

84FSP
84FSP UberDork
7/11/22 1:40 p.m.

Honda S2K.  Crisp, short throws, and nicely geared to keep revs in their happy place.

SKJSS (formerly Klayfish)
SKJSS (formerly Klayfish) PowerDork
7/11/22 2:13 p.m.

The NA/NB is awful hard to beat, IMO.  So direct, short throws, firm motions...but not too hard.  Honorable mention will go to nearly any manual Honda product, as well as my 128i.

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
7/11/22 2:46 p.m.

TunaDad rebuilt a TH350 for me and my buddy for the Camaro we built in high school. It had all manner of tricks and things thrown in it, far more than the 400 deserved.

 

Putting it in Drive netted a half spin of each tire. Every time.

The 1-2 shift on the floor would always put you very sideways, and it was firmer than any speedshift.

The 2-3 shift on the floor happened over 90 and also put you sideways.

 

Maybe we needed better tires. Either way it was a hoot.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
7/11/22 3:35 p.m.

Miata boxes are damn good.

Hewland boxes in most single seaters are great also 

With that said automotive H-pattern gearboxes are abominations.

Motorcycle gearboxes are better in every way; you can go up and down the box without the clutch, the shifter level only needs to move half an inch and they come with proper ratios from the factory. Some of then even have no lift shifting.

As for CVTs I thought I would dislike the CVT in my F500 but turns out they are damn good.

sir_mike
sir_mike Reader
7/11/22 4:23 p.m.

My 1969 Ford Cortina GT with the single rail trans with a Quaif short shifter.

paddygarcia
paddygarcia GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/11/22 4:44 p.m.

My 90 miata, after they rebuilt it at 10k miles because it stunk in the cold. Stayed good for another 175k miles.

Porsche 993 with an FD-clone RS shift rod and an aluminum ball knob. Not as direct and pure as the miata, but you can shift it with 2 fingers.

Elegance aside, the pistol-grip A-833 4 speed in my 'cuda was always a hoot if you drove it like you hated it and just lifted a little off the gas and waved your foot over the clutch pedal to shift.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
7/11/22 4:59 p.m.

Pete, in what car could I sample such a transmission? I know nothing of what you speak and feel intrigued.

Best manual for me is pretty much any Miata. The NSX I drove 20 years ago was great too. I was a BMW guy for a long time and so I mostly know the cartilage feel of those and the long throws. Not my favorite.

For autos, the best I've personally driven is the one in the 3rd gen Mazda 3. Wet clutch, no hesitation like the DCTs I've driven. But I haven't driven the PDKs or the ZF auto that everyone loves.

gearheadE30
gearheadE30 Dork
7/11/22 5:39 p.m.

For automatics, that ZF 8 speed is pretty solid in BMW-tuned form. The Chrysler version I had a hard time believing was the same trans.

Now that I've spent some time in EFILive fixing the calibration, I actually don't mind the 4L85E in the suburban either, but I think the key there is that automatics can work well with a big engine and a flat, predictable torque curve.

Favorite for me are old BMW manuals when all the bits are new, probably because that's what I grew up with. E30/E34 era.

The worst manual goes to my buddy's Hawkeye STi with some kind of ultra short throw shifter. Absolutely zero confidence what gear you're going to end up in, and the notchiest shifter I've ever had the displeasure of using.

Motorcycle transmissions win, though. I love the transmission on my FX450, perfect spacing and just so slick to use, clutch or not. Second best is the 990 Adventure with a stiffer shift spring in it, for all the same reasons plus the beautiful noise that goes with it.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
7/11/22 5:43 p.m.

The 4-speed manual in my dads '79 Datsun 210.   

Hot knife thru butter.  Yes, I'm that lame.

SSpiffy
SSpiffy New Reader
7/11/22 5:49 p.m.

It's a toss up between my '64 Dodge Dart GT with a Hurst shifter - direct, solid, and precise - and the 4 on the tree that a friend's mid-60 Ford van had - because it was weird.

slefain
slefain UltimaDork
7/11/22 6:13 p.m.

For cars I've owned I like the 5-speed in my E46. But as for ones I driven the Porsche PDK was brilliant on the track.

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/11/22 6:42 p.m.

Favorite transmission?  I'm not sure what would make a favorite.

The one that impressed me the most is the 458 italia DCT.  Not only are the shifts lightning fast the calibration is spectacular, at least on track. I've never driven one on the street.  On the track it shifts just about where I would almost all the time.  Both up and down.  Really impressive.

NA Miata transmissions are good but it's too easy to get the wrong gear for them to be my favorite.  I'm sure it's never an issue on the street but if you're trying to make a shift while hopping a curb and/or sliding the car around a corner it's easy to get the wrong gear.  Second to fifth is just annoying but fourth to first instead of third is dangerous and potentially expensive.

I do like a properly setup Hewland 4 speed box in an open wheel car.  Quick, positive shifts.  A quick lift of the throttle on upshifts or a quick blip on downshifts and they'll snick right into the desired gear in what seems like a fraction of a second.

 

billstewartx
billstewartx Reader
7/11/22 7:46 p.m.

ALFA. any 105 bodied 5 speed. 

the best 

 

racerfink
racerfink UberDork
7/11/22 8:07 p.m.

Put me down for Honda motorcycle sequential box.  Back during my 10 year reunion, a friend of mine had a Yamaha FZR 600 and a Honda CBR F2.  On the way to the welcome social, I rode the FZR, and was amazed at how clunky the whole bike was, especially for less than 5,000 miles.  I had a Suzuki Katana 750 at the time, with 22,000 miles, and the Yamaha didn't even come close in feel and quality.

On the ride back, I rode the F2, and it was amazing compared to the FZR, and as much as I hated to admit, better than my Katana.  The gearbox in that F2 was magic.

triumph7
triumph7 HalfDork
7/11/22 9:31 p.m.

The 5 speed in my 1980 TR7 was awesome, much better than either of my Miatae.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/11/22 9:49 p.m.

PDK, hands down. I've never driven anything else that even comes close to it. 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/11/22 9:54 p.m.

The transmission that I miss the most was the three-on-the-tree in my 1964 C10 with the 230 straight six.

It was absolute garbage, but damn, I miss shifting that thing. If I ever build a hotrod, I'll probably put that combo in it. 

dherr (Forum Supporter)
dherr (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/11/22 10:06 p.m.

All of my Hondas always had good shifters. But while I love my manuals, the best experience was the 430 Scuderia F1 transmission. Drove it on a track, was pretty much perfect, can definitely see how these took over F1 racing. Lighting fast, complete control, what is not to like?

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
7/11/22 10:09 p.m.

The 4 speed in my '76 Corvette. Not sure if it was a Muncie M22 or BW T10. It was smooth, fast, precise.  The throws were longer than most new cars, but I like that and could feel everything the Trans was doing.

ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter)
ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/11/22 10:27 p.m.

Another vote for motorcycle sequential transmission; there is just something so satisfying about nailing lightning-quick clutchless shifts with perfect throttle coordination!

For cars, I really like the six-speed Aisin transmission in my FR-S, a close tie with the related Aisin six-speed JDM Toyota Altezza transmission that was in my old AE86 Corolla.

kb58
kb58 SuperDork
7/11/22 10:32 p.m.

Threads like this are kinda worthless because no one knows what the baseline is or what people are comparing their "favorite" to. I mean, "terrible" would be a favorite in comparison to "worse." About the best qualified would be someone like the Stig from TG, who has obviously driving a crap ton of cars, and really can say what "favorite" means to him. For any of us here, probably not so much. Case in point, I really liked the Datsun Competition middle-close ratio transmission I put in my Datsun 1200 - but no one knows what I'm comparing it to, so it's sort of meaningless.

NavyNGLO
NavyNGLO New Reader
7/11/22 11:21 p.m.

My favorite was a push-button transmission on my 1963 Chrysler Newport. Just because it was so unique.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/11/22 11:25 p.m.

In reply to kb58 :

That is what makes it interesting to me.  It is not about the transmissions' merits so much as peoples' predilections.

Theunz
Theunz New Reader
7/11/22 11:28 p.m.

Any transmission that requires the use of my left leg to facilitate a gear change. Some are fun because they are so smooth, like the Hurst competition plus that was in my first car and some are fun because of the feeling of accomplishment you get when you successfully navigate the gears on an old dogleg Porsche 911 901 box.

preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/11/22 11:29 p.m.

A side-shifter 901 from a 914. Very long and deliberate yet very satisfying.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
7/11/22 11:33 p.m.
kb58 said:

 I really liked the Datsun Competition middle-close ratio transmission I put in my Datsun 1200 - but no one knows what I'm comparing it to, so it's sort of meaningless.

Annnnnnd you would be wrong........you should have at least remembered I was on here and said "almost no one knows"

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 12:19 a.m.
APEowner said:

NA Miata transmissions are good but it's too easy to get the wrong gear for them to be my favorite.  I'm sure it's never an issue on the street but if you're trying to make a shift while hopping a curb and/or sliding the car around a corner it's easy to get the wrong gear.  Second to fifth is just annoying but fourth to first instead of third is dangerous and potentially expensive.

Sounds like a motor mount problem to me. When your shifter is right in the trans, excessive motor movement means the gates move when the engine unloads, and if your timing is right you will find a different gate than you expect. Given the number of Miatas that see track use and the lack of money shift engine fatalities, I think it's been proven pretty well not to be a real problem over the years. Only the 2-5 is really known, although I haven't done one of those in a couple of decades.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 12:20 a.m.

My favorite? The reversed Subaru trans in my Vanagon. The shifter literally and audibly snicks into gear. It would be fun even without knowing what a massive upgrade it is over the stock shift "feel" and the big hole that used to live between 3 and 4.

XR7
XR7 GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/12/22 2:57 a.m.

2008 VW GTI with the DSG, watching the tach needle bounce with each nearly instantaneous shift.

2010 Fusion Sport 3.5L with the 6 speed automatic. Fabulous, always had the right gear for climbing a mountain pass

Any truck with a Fuller 13 speed, double clutch or no clutch, gear jamming with a 8V-92 hauling the mail.

2012 Boss 302 6 speed, MGW shifter and 7500 RPM shifts, glorious sounds

F150 SuperCrew 4x4 3.5L Ecoboost 10 speed trans, pulling 9,000 camper, always has a gear to either cruise or get up on the pipe to pass or climb mountains.

2015 Cadillac ATS4 2.5 Turbo 4 AWD and a six speed always up for what ever no matter the weather.

Why it took these morons at the auto and truck manufacturers so long to give us decent transmissions is beyond me.

RichardNZ
RichardNZ GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/12/22 4:51 a.m.

Close ratio 3 rail Ford out of a Mk 1 Twin Cam Escort, I had it behind a 2l Pinto motor until I peeled all the teeth off 3rd gear - this was the one they called the Bullet box ...

The 6 speed in my Mk 1 Focus ST was pretty good as was the 6 speed in my Subaru Outback.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 6:39 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
APEowner said:

NA Miata transmissions are good but it's too easy to get the wrong gear for them to be my favorite.  I'm sure it's never an issue on the street but if you're trying to make a shift while hopping a curb and/or sliding the car around a corner it's easy to get the wrong gear.  Second to fifth is just annoying but fourth to first instead of third is dangerous and potentially expensive.

Sounds like a motor mount problem to me. When your shifter is right in the trans, excessive motor movement means the gates move when the engine unloads, and if your timing is right you will find a different gate than you expect. Given the number of Miatas that see track use and the lack of money shift engine fatalities, I think it's been proven pretty well not to be a real problem over the years. Only the 2-5 is really known, although I haven't done one of those in a couple of decades.

I don't know if Mazda did any changes to the shift fingers for the Miata flavor of the trans, but in its original use in RX-7s there were two different shift rod locations and thus two different sets of shift fingers, and with both geometries it is very easy to get the main shift rod wedged between 1 and 3 when trying to upshift.  I am 90% sure it is because the shift forks and the shift fingers are held to the shift rods with roll pins and this allows for some springiness.

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
7/12/22 7:44 a.m.

Nissan FS5R30A

I've only driven one in a MKIII XJ6, but I have one about to go into my W116. Smooth, direct, positive. Perfect amount of effort and feel.

Runner up is a Tremec TR3650 in a 2004 Mach 1. Little more effort than I prefer but very crisp and fast.

 

GRM secret answer is Volvo M40. Hnnnggggggg

calteg
calteg SuperDork
7/12/22 9:38 a.m.

In order:

2000

Miata 5 speed

E46 ZHP manual trans

trucke
trucke SuperDork
7/12/22 9:44 a.m.

My 2022 Civic Si and 2019 Civic Type R are pretty close.  Both are fantastic!

bigeyedfish
bigeyedfish Reader
7/12/22 9:44 a.m.

I'm jumping on the motorcycle bandwagon.  Even the cheap, E36 M3ty motorcycles I've ridden have had really pleasant transmissions.  Down shifting on a motorcycle and getting it just right is really rewarding.

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/12/22 10:01 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
APEowner said:

NA Miata transmissions are good but it's too easy to get the wrong gear for them to be my favorite.  I'm sure it's never an issue on the street but if you're trying to make a shift while hopping a curb and/or sliding the car around a corner it's easy to get the wrong gear.  Second to fifth is just annoying but fourth to first instead of third is dangerous and potentially expensive.

Sounds like a motor mount problem to me. When your shifter is right in the trans, excessive motor movement means the gates move when the engine unloads, and if your timing is right you will find a different gate than you expect. Given the number of Miatas that see track use and the lack of money shift engine fatalities, I think it's been proven pretty well not to be a real problem over the years. Only the 2-5 is really known, although I haven't done one of those in a couple of decades.

Square left in 50 caution ocean! - Author of How To Build a High Performance Mazda Miata

To be clear, I'm not saying that they're bad transmissions.  Just that they're not my favorite.

Motor mounts definitely make this worse as do tired transmissions.

The fourth into first shifts that I've seen including the one I did are probably driver error and probably shouldn't be blamed on the transmission.  Although, a Miata is the only car I've ever done that in.  Fortunately Miata engines are pretty durable and a money shift doesn't necessarily result in having to spend money.  I've seen half a dozen Miata drivers do that without engine failure.

The 2-5 thing is a thing however.  I don't know a single Spec Miata driver who haven't experienced that.  It's not a problem all the time but if you're trying to grab third mid-left hand corner it's easy to do, especially if you're hitting the rumble strip.  Spec Miatas get shifted mid corner a lot.

Again, I'm not saying that they're bad, just that to be a favorite of mine they'd have to be harder to get into fifth gear.  That would likely be annoying in a street car and therefore remove them from some  other peoples favorite transmission list.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 10:30 a.m.

And I'm just saying is that you're describing bad motor mounts, not a basic transmission problem :) 

2-5 happens, but not that commonly. Everybody does it at some point, probably, but it's pretty rare. Any transmission with a narrow gate and a direct shifter is going to be prone to hitting the wrong gate if the engine/trans moves significantly while you're in the middle of a fast shift though. I've not come across the money shift myself, for that to happen the shifter is being moved with some side load instead of straight (driver unfamiliarity?). The motor/trans movement mid-shift would actually be helping you in this case.

Worst transmission I've ever driven? A Honda transmission in an Ariel Atom. I don't know what it was, but I think it had a K series attached to it and it was definitely a cable shift. I eventually found third gear and just left it there because there was no chance I'd ever find it again. That was very likely the fault of the shifter setup.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
7/12/22 11:24 a.m.

I like the T5 but my favourite transmission is one that many will think I am crazy for liking.

The stock BMC trans used in the B series powered cars (MGA/MGB, various sedans)  can be criticized on several points - synchros that wear too quickly, ratios thar are wide,, non-synchro first gear etc., but when you install the competition close ratio gear set, it transforms it and becomes one of the slickest racing boxes I have run.

First gear? Forget about it - never need it after the start.  It snicks into each gear neatly and smoothly and the ratios are perfectly chosen.  Couple it with a lower diff ratio and the performance enhancement is amazing.   Just using this box on the street, with a 4.55 diff in place of the stock 4.3 cuts a full second off the 1/4 mile time on a stock engined car and more on the track.  High speed cruising?  Solved by fitting a Laycock OD unit so that it is an ultra close ratio 6 speed box (I only use it in 4th OD on the track).

Not for everyone (face it, just about 'everyone' wants an automatic today), but for a sports car driver this particular transmission has the best feel to me.

I have driven ZFs in my street cars but they feel heavy in comparison and the Alfa long spindly shift levers never endeared themselves to me

Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos)
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 11:47 a.m.

I loved the 6 speed in my RX-8 because it was smooth and wonderful rotary noises came out of the back of the car.

The DSG in my wife's GTI is better than I am. I can't complain about how it functions as a transmission.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 12:30 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

I do know that I remember my MGB gearbox being surprisingly good in stock form for the 10 miles the car was able to manage before it decided it didn't want to be a four cylinder anymore.

I can tell you the T56 Magnum gets better the harder and faster you shift it. If you're noodling around, it's okay. If you're doing a fast shift near redline on track with a 500 hp engine, it's like a bolt action rifle. The regular T56 gets a little cranky at high rpm by comparison.

Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 1:08 p.m.

Mid 80s Subaru Justy with a CVT, it has the same top speed in reverse as it did in drive. 

Ranger50
Ranger50 MegaDork
7/12/22 3:43 p.m.

I still haven't found one yet worth a damn... 

Yes, I'm picky but I also fix them. If I could afford it, I'd love to try a Lenco.

Cactus
Cactus HalfDork
7/12/22 6:08 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

Any American auto with a ratchet shifter and reverse manual valve body.  Drive one and be forever annoyed with how slow manual transmissions are.

 

Has to be a hydraulic trans, too.  Electronic transmissions are painfully slow in comparison, even DSGs.

Best transmission I've ever driven was a TexRacing T101a, but shy of a proper dogbox, I'm 100% with you. I don't see the point of synchromesh anymore, to the point where an auto is just better.

 

I have ridden some motorcycles with awfully junky shifting. Some bikes have sublime shifters, but I've got an airhead with a few false neutrals, so clearly that doesn't apply to all of them.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/12/22 6:40 p.m.

Miata with a voodoo knob or a 5.0 Mustang with a Hurst short shifter.  Both offer nice feel and positive gear location.  Cable shifters fall short.  3rd choice would be the T56 after a new short shifter, reverse lockout mod, skip shift delete and fresh oil.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 6:42 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

Reverse lockout mod?

Andy Neuman
Andy Neuman SuperDork
7/12/22 7:00 p.m.

I've always like the feel of the Miata 5 speed, or the TR6060 from the newer muscle cars... I really just miss shifting gears in general.  

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/12/22 8:14 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Yes the T56 has a reverse lockout solenoid that is fussy.  If it fails the spring pressure is immense.  You can disconnect the solenoid and install a spring with resistance that doesn't require two hands.  It converts a T56 with electronic reverse lockout to a manual transmission with a functional reverse gear that you won't go into on accident.  My F body came with a screwed up CAGS mod that disabled the reverse lockout solenoid too.  And a stock shifter with sad bushings.  It was completely awful.  I have photos on my horribly named build thread.  I asked for help with that too.....

Silly GM and their electronics on a T56.  

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 8:23 p.m.

The sequential transmissions in Japanese motorcycles are the benchmark, but I generally expect all of them to be good, although the one on my 1972(?) Rockford Chibi 60 mini bike was kind of sketchy.

The bike transmission that really surprised me though was the six speed on my 2007(?) Harley Sportster. It truly felt like I was shifting a high quality bolt action rifle. I never expected it to be that good. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 8:27 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

I've driven T56s with just a spring on the reverse lockout. It's not good. In fact, we had one journalist convinced that our car wouldn't go into 5th because (I realized later) he kept getting halfway to the R gate on a 4-5 shift. It's how we used to do the Miata LS conversions because the GMPP PCM didn't come with the solenoid circuit. We messed around with different spring rates but never found one that worked well.

Then I drove my Camaro donor with a functional solenoid and it was a revelation. It worked really well. We developed a standalone solenoid controller that acts like the factory one (locks out reverse above 5 mph), and the cars shift SO much better because of it. It's available as a retrofit for any car running a GM PCM with CAN and a T56 ;)

So my opinion and experience is the exact opposite of yours - removing the solenoid makes them shift worse. Making it functional makes them smooooth as butter and you'll never miss 5th because you can't find the edge of the gate. If you have a failed solenoid, the correct thing to do is to fix the solenoid instead of judging the failure mode that still lets you get into gear. If I get into a swapped car and the T56 has a spring-loaded lockout, I assume the rest of the car is full of shortcuts.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/12/22 8:56 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

My experience with GM electronics in 90s cars is always the same.  It's overengineered complexity that fails and is overly difficult to repair and almost impossible to source parts for. You even developed a stand-alone controller.  Any chance it works in a non-canbus car?  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 9:01 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

The only reason I had to develop a standalone controller is because the PCM we were using didn't have that control circuit. It wasn't a failure of 90's GM electronics, but an omission on the folks who put together the GMPP PCM wiring harness and programming. The parts are easy to get, and a solenoid is pretty simple and robust. Your problem was that someone turned it off, not that it was broken :)

Unfortunately, the standalone controller needs a CAN speed signal. That's what it's using to make the decision. You could simply throw a momentary switch in there if you wanted to try it. If you still have that stock PCM, you could turn it back on again.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/12/22 9:08 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

The car is slated for a PCM upgrade soon regardless.  I will see if the solenoid works correctly after the conversion. The car has a lot slated in the near future too as well as the Subie.  Challenge is first though.  I appreciate the input and will see about getting it sorted.  The 96 PCM is a real odd one.  Your experience with the GMPP one sort of says something about GM electronics too.  It could've easily been programmed in but was omitted.  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/12/22 9:18 p.m.

The GMPP stuff is designed to be as easy as possible to swap, so it's stripped down to the basic with no extra I/O beyond what's necessary. Maybe if we'd purchased the "connect and cruise" option with a T56 it would have driven the solenoid, but I suspect the target installation is an automatic hot rod :)

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
7/12/22 9:39 p.m.
Cactus said:
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

Any American auto with a ratchet shifter and reverse manual valve body.  Drive one and be forever annoyed with how slow manual transmissions are.

 

Has to be a hydraulic trans, too.  Electronic transmissions are painfully slow in comparison, even DSGs.

Best transmission I've ever driven was a TexRacing T101a, but shy of a proper dogbox, I'm 100% with you. I don't see the point of synchromesh anymore, to the point where an auto is just better.

 

I have ridden some motorcycles with awfully junky shifting. Some bikes have sublime shifters, but I've got an airhead with a few false neutrals, so clearly that doesn't apply to all of them.

If brute speed and force count The Seinz 5 speed dog ring is the best racing gearbox.  
  The various Hewland I've driven all had sloppy linkages making shifting very much an acquired skill.   Though there was the occasional shift where those felt •••    proper. 
  

I briefly drove a Corlloti connected to Holman & Moody Ford 427 in a Can Am car.  The less said about that combination the better. 

Cactus
Cactus HalfDork
7/12/22 11:45 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

Oh yeah, I should have qualified that. I'm not about to advocate for those old truck 18 speeds and what not. A good racing dogbox is worth every penny. A bad one is maybe not so great.

 

jh36
jh36 GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/12/22 11:55 p.m.

Nothing outside the norm here...the NA Miata is the slickest stock box I've used. The Tex racing T101 in the Camaro is new-ish to me but I think we will fall in love one day. The last gen gr86 is the second best street box I've owned. 
I had a '67 MG BGT that I really liked but that is a very old memory and the car that came before it was a Lancia Beta Coupe which was pretty awful. Probably anything would have felt great at that point. 

CJ
CJ GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/13/22 12:30 a.m.

I had a '71 Datsun 510 2-door automatic. Picked up a dog-leg 5-speed (first gate was R-1st.  2nd- 5th were an H) out of a 200SX because automatic.

Not sure if the 5-speed was really wonderful or if it was just wonderful compared to the automatic, but I have really good memories of it.

The 4-speed in my MG was really nice, too.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
7/13/22 12:02 p.m.

One that I forgot about was the transmission in my old front engined Lamborghini.  It was unusual because not many manufacturers make their own gears and transmissions, but Lamborghini did - they had a tractor factory with a gear set up. It was smooth, the ratios well thought out, and had synchro on all gears including reverse. I switched to Red Line oil and it got even smoother.

I wonder how many car makers today also create their own transmissions?  Anyone know?

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
7/13/22 12:52 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

Mazda does their own.

GIRTHQUAKE
GIRTHQUAKE SuperDork
7/13/22 12:56 p.m.

The only manual I've driven is the C52 in my AW11 :D Cable-operated babey!

In reply to wspohn :

Mitsubishi I think too.

rustomatic
rustomatic Reader
7/13/22 1:21 p.m.

Pretty sure I'm not the only one here with this suggestion:  VW DSG.  My wife got a 2008 GTI brand new (because she's way too suggestible).  I had fun with the paddles for about a month, then just gave in to the auto function (sport mode is faster, anyway).  Still a very good setup--beats the hell out of a 10-speed Roadranger . . .

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
7/13/22 5:59 p.m.

I enjoyed my 2.3 16v 190e, I've had others say it's not smooth but mine was great. 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
7/13/22 6:43 p.m.

Favorite manual I have driven was the ZF 5 speed in my E36. Shiften with the expected German precision.

Best automatic? My VW's DSG has been the only automatic I've driven behind a four cylinder that I didn't hate. Honorable mention to the 4L60E in my C10 project. Having tuned it myself helped a lot.

MattGent
MattGent HalfDork
7/13/22 7:25 p.m.

More votes for 99 Miata. About perfect after a bushing rebuild. 

We also had a 97 GSR and it was really good

maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/13/22 8:22 p.m.

With the motorcycle option, I'm going with a unique layout.  The Kawasaki H1, H2 triples had a 5 speed transmission with neutral all the way down.  I always hated hunting for neutral somewhere between first and second.  I loved being able to find neutral at a light and let go the clutch lever.  Never missed a shift going 1-5 at full throttle or as close as I dared.

Shadeux
Shadeux GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/13/22 8:41 p.m.

Auto? My first car's TH350, rebuilt (with a shift kit for free just because he liked me) for $200. 150k and never missed a shift. 

Manual? Umm, my '95 Miata with a short shifter. I think it's better than my C7.

Now, let me tell you about the dual-range 4 speed Ford 5000 I had. Whoo!

Edit: Anyone driven a 3751 GM bus before? I Have!

RichardNZ
RichardNZ GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/14/22 5:16 a.m.
maj75 (Forum Supporter) said:

With the motorcycle option, I'm going with a unique layout.  The Kawasaki H1, H2 triples had a 5 speed transmission with neutral all the way down.  I always hated hunting for neutral somewhere between first and second.  I loved being able to find neutral at a light and let go the clutch lever.  Never missed a shift going 1-5 at full throttle or as close as I dared.

 

A lot of the Kawasakis up to then had neutral at the bottom. It was a good layout until you changed down too many times into a slow corner and found yourself on a coaster ...

Most Euros of the era were right hand shift and there were lots of manufacturer variations - my AJS was 1 up, 3 down which was very confusing when I hopped off my Yamaha DT and went to use th back brake in a hurry smiley

I can't remember the exact year but you  'Mericans legislated 1 down x up and on the left hand side sometime in the 70's

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
7/14/22 6:32 a.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

Favorite manual I have driven was the ZF 5 speed in my E36. Shiften with the expected German precision.

I have my ZF320 with a short shifter and a tall knob. It's one of the goats for sure.

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